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Root Cause Analysis – get to the heart of the issue

Root Cause AnalysisA stitch in time saves nine. It’s an old saying, but it still rings true. It’s generally easier to resolve a problem at the very beginning, rather than waiting until it escalates. Sometimes things get so far down the line that it’s hard to understand how they occurred in the beginning. That’s where Root Cause Analysis comes into play.

Root Cause Analysis is invariably used as part of a Six Sigma continuous business improvement programme. In food manufacturing it’s a very useful tool for resolving and reducing the number of incidents, issues, failures and complaints. It can be applied across all business departments.

In a nutshell Root Cause Analysis investigates:

  • What happened
  • How it happened
  • Why it happened

fishbone diagram5 Whys and fishbone diagrams

The ‘5 Whys’ is a tried and tested method of drilling down to the root cause of an issue. Exactly as it sounds, it uses five consecutive questions to get to the heart of the matter. Used in conjunction with a fishbone diagram, they can be used to improve productivity and efficiency. You’ll also have fewer product recalls or spoilages.

Also called a cause and effect diagram, a fishbone diagram has a spine, running left to right. This represents the problem. Then various ‘bones’ are attached to the ‘spine’. These are different elements which may have contributed to the issue. Generally they will be:

  • People
  • Methods
  • Machines
  • Materials
  • Measurements
  • Environment

There are several events to investigate in a food manufacturing and processing environment. Typical ones include food poisoning outbreaks and food complaints You can also examine premises and practices complaints. Training issues and ownership issues can also be addressed.

Why bother with Root Cause Analysis?

For starters, the ability to perform Root Cause Analysis and take corrective actions is a requirement under Version 7 of the BRC Global Standard for Food Safety. Also, with an Ethical Audit. the SMETA Best Practice Guidance recommends auditors should ensure that corrective actions address the root cause of an issue. But aside from this, it can help to ensure that your products are safe and fit for purpose. It highlights training needs as well as documents and procedures which need modification. Moreover, it prevents recurring failures. You can also use it as part of a Due Diligence defence.

One of the main reasons for performing Root Cause Analysis is to protect your business’ reputation. Employing it should avoid any costs associated with product recalls or withdrawals. You can also save money by focusing resources where they are most needed.

Broughton Hall EstateWhere can I take a Root Cause Analysis course?

Verner Wheelock run regular Root Cause Analysis courses, either at our training facility in Skipton We also deliver courses in-house at your own premises. The courses last a single day but will give you the skills necessary to implement a Root Cause Analysis strategy within your own company.

The course is particularly beneficial for food technical managers and those working in production and quality control. It will also be of interest to HR Managers dealing with corrective actions following an ethical audit.

Our next Root Cause Analysis course takes place in Skipton on Wednesday 4th October. Please click here to book your place .